26 September 2012

Quick Post: Obama's Big Day in New York

New York City just about shut down thanks to the presence of President Obama and the two speeches he gave at the UN General Assembly and Clinton Global Initiative. While it may have been a nuisance for many New Yorkers, the two speeches gave the President an opportunity to speak broadly about US foreign policy and hone in on a very specific issue.

"Just as we cannot solve every problem in the world, the United States has not and will not seek to dictate the outcome of democratic transitions abroad," said Obama as he touched on the democratic transitions taking place in the wake of Arab Spring and the riots that erupted following the release of a movie trailer that defamed the Prophet Muhammad.

He made it clear that he condemned the video, but was as strong in saying that free speech must be protected. Partnerships and cooperation will be vital, argued the President, to tackling the greatest challenges in the world and that includes global development. "America has pursued a development agenda that fuels growth and breaks dependency, and worked with African leaders to help them feed their nations. New partnerships have been forged to combat corruption and promote government that is open and transparent, and new commitments have been made through the Equal Futures Partnership to ensure that women and girls can fully participate in politics and pursue opportunity."

Following the speech, Obama traveled across town to the Clinton Global Initiative to tackle the issue of modern slaver. "It ought to concern every person, because it is a debasement of our common humanity. It ought to concern every community, because it tears at our social fabric. It ought to concern every business, because it distorts markets. It ought to concern every nation, because it endangers public health and fuels violence and organized crime."

The President stressed that efforts need to go beyond raising awareness. A large part of it, he argued, involves accountability for all involved. That includes looking inward by including the United States in the State Department's Annual trafficking report. To reduce the rate of trafficking, Obama said the US will work with the private sector, increase tracking and support the victims. He made it clear that an important shift must take place from seeing people as victims of trafficking rather than criminals.

Partnerships extend to the grassroots, argued Obama. "That’s how real change happens -- from the bottom up," he said.